Featured, Guides

The Perfect Costa Rica Honeymoon

Hot Springs, Costa Rica

When one of my very dear friends got engaged, one of the most fun things to talk to her about was, of course, the honeymoon. After hours of planning, Sabrina and John decided on Costa Rica and had an absolutely amazing time. I asked her to fill Vagabond3 in on all the awesome places she stayed and any tips for someone else considering their honeymoon in Costa Rica. Get ready to be JEALOUS!!

As John and I were considering where to spend the first week or so of wedded bliss, many different locations crossed our minds. Our first choice was Iceland, which we both thought seemed exotic and different and unexpected. And then we looked for flights – Iceland wasn’t going to happen on our budget.  Our thoughts then fell to locations in the Caribbean, therefore cheaper to get to, so we could splurge on accommodations, which was super important because when else in our lives will it be totally acceptable to book a room with a private jacuzzi AND full size swimming pool on our patio? We looked at Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Lucia – all the regulars. But nothing really stuck out.

Meet Sabrina and John

Costa Rica arrived as a thought, without either of us knowing what was appealing about it. Neither of us had been there before, and we didn’t know much about Central America. But we saw pictures of people flying through rain forests hooked to nothing but a cable the size of my pinkie, paired with amazing beaches and monkeys swinging from trees – and we knew we had found our honeymoon location.

We had 7 days to spend there – and we decided to divide our time between the sunny, beachy Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast, and the rainy, green Arenal/Monteverde area in the northern central area of the country. Our flights from Orlando to San Jose, and then back to Los Angeles, were less than $400 each – which allowed us to focus our budget on the perks of fancy resorts.

Once in San Jose, we rented a car from Budget for the entire 7-day trip – all total about $500 – completely and totally worth it. We had to do A LOT of driving to get around in Costa Rica, and I don’t think that we would have experienced the country in the same way if we were on a tour bus. And from what I’ve read, public transportation in Costa Rica is not something you can rely on. We didn’t do anything in San Jose – by the time we landed we had been in wedding land for 3 days straight and we were ready to be either on a beach or in a bed – or in a bed on the beach…

So, we picked up our car and headed out of the capital city on the teeny, tiny, confusing roads taking us to Manuel Antonio. Oh, and a GPS is really important there – because the roads do not have names. Not kidding, the roads actually don’t have names. You look at a map, it’s lines. There are no names.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

The mainland part of our trip to Manuel Antonio was slightly tedious, but the payoff came when our route made a sharp turn and all of a sudden, there was the glistening Pacific to our right. It’s akin to the PCH here in California, but untouched, serene, and so much… wilder. We passed through groves upon groves of palm trees, farmed specifically for an oil that is then used in a wide range of cosmetics and beauty products. They are called African Oil Palms, have a very distinct smell, and apparently have proved quite a profitable and controversial industry in Costa Rica. While they do create many jobs, these trees aren’t native, and are thought to threaten the biodiversity of the land.

We passed through Quepos (the town just outside of Manuel Antonio), got lost at least twice on the one-way roads big enough for about three bikes, and started our ascend up to Issimo Suites, about a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the National Park. Issimo Suites, along with Tabåcon, where we stayed later, is the product of HOURS of internet searching and comparing amenities and prices, mostly by John. Issimo Suites rests on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is about a 10 minute walk from the entrance to the nearest beach (by entrance I mean a barely discernable pathway through the woods), and about a 3 minute drive to the entrance to the National Park. It has less than 10 suites, meaning that you feel like you are alone all the time, which is WONDERFUL. The staff of 3 does EVERYTHING, from bartending, cooking, cleaning, working the front desk, and making repairs. And they are so incredibly friendly.

Issimo Suites

Our suite was, of course, the Honeymoon Suite, and featured a bathroom that looked like it had been carved out of an ancient grotto, a full kitchen and dining area, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and an enormous patio complete with a full sized pool AND hot tub. It was, in one word, heaven. Once we saw the inside of our suite, we pretty much decided that we didn’t need to go anywhere else for the remainder of the trip, and we really didn’t need to return to the United States… ever.
But we did venture out the next day, after a refreshing dip in the pool, to explore the rocky beaches and swim in the Pacific (I swam while John watched, he’s seen too much Shark Week). We also spent an entire day at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, where we walked 3 miles along the coast and through the forest, saw white faced monkeys, iguanas, and what can best be described as crabs that looked like satan.
When our time drew to a close in Manuel Antonio, we were sad to leave, and wary about the next destination. What if it wasn’t as great as Issimo? Should we have just stayed here the full 7 days? How could anything possibly top the luxury we had just immersed ourselves in for the past 3 days?

Manuel Antonio sunset

The answer, Tabåcon. On the trip from Manuel Antonio to Arenal (about 5 hours, but really entertaining since you think you are going to either die or kill someone else around every curve), we kept trying to psyche ourselves up for our destination by repeating a chant that goes like this: “Tabåcon, Tabåcon, everybody Tabåcon!” As if Tabåcon was something someone could actively DO, or a state of mind that we recommended everybody else get on board with. We were determined that it was going to be amazing, and that it was going to TOP Issimo. The happiness of our honeymoon depended on it! And, it did. Tabåcon is a FIVE STAR RESORT, and when I put that in all caps I mean to say,

“I have never been anywhere this fancy and probably never will be again because this place is perfection.”

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

The resort is in the middle of the rain forest. It’s quiet, green, and spread out over about 3 acres of land. The rooms are modern and luxurious, with fluffy robes & slippers, hot tubs in your living room, and again, the floor to ceiling windows. Perhaps the coolest part of Tabåcon is the spa – complete with pools upon pools created by natural hot springs buried deep in the jungle, and a full-menu spa featuring massages, facials, and mud wraps. John and I swam in all the pools at least once, some 3 or 4 times, sat behind the waterfall and people watched through the crashing wall of water coming down over our heads, and ordered cocktails at the swim up bar in the large pool with the view of the Volcan Arenal – the active Volcano about a mile away from Tabåcon. We also participated in a Temezcal – an ancient ritual descending from Mayan culture where you sit in a small mud hut with volcanic rock having water poured over it while you breathe in the steam. You are supposed to go four rounds of this ritual, with only small breaks in between, while the whole ceremony is lead by a Shaman. I wimped out after two rounds because I started to hallucinate and thought I might die. John pridefully made it all the way through to the fourth round, after which he and the other two participants (an older couple from Wisconsin) emerged from the hut and collapsed to the ground in wet heaps. The Shaman and her assistant seemed completely unfazed.

Ziplining

We took one “adventure trip” while staying at Tabåcon. Early one morning we stumbled into a van with a motley crew of other folks from the resort, including a 70 year old man from Mississippi and a very young girl who spoke no English and appeared to be his Colombian mistress/escort/prostitute. The van climbed a dirt road to Volcan Arenal, and just at the base of the volcano, we were strapped up and sent to zip line through the trees, over a huge lake that appeared to go on for miles. Many of the cables were over 400ft in the air, and it was exhilirating and scary, but probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I looked to my left as I was careening through the trees, and I could see the sunlight breaking over the water, and the vast landscape that went beyond it. The view was breathtaking from up there, and if I could have let go of my cable and taken pictures and videos without dying, I would have. But the image will be imprinted into my memory forever.

We caught an early flight back to Los Angeles the next morning. Exhausted and weary, but SO HAPPY with our honeymoon, and SO HAPPY that we had just had the wedding of our dreams. We stumbled back into our apartment, resolving to take an anniversary trip back to Costa Rica. The thing is – although I am sure the rest of the country is beautiful and amazing – I would want to go back to the two spots we visited first and foremost. They were perfection, and I don’t think that it’s because I was looking at them through honeymoon-colored glasses.
Totally jealous, right?! Have you vacationed anywhere that you’d want to return to- the exact same way? I wouldn’t mind recreating my Sydney trip! How about you?